Russian conquest of Central Asia

The annexation of Merv
©Vasily Vereshchagin
1884 Jan 1

The annexation of Merv

Merv, Turkmenistan

The Trans-Caspian Railway reached Kyzyl Arbat at the northwest end of the Kopet Dag in mid-September 1881. From October through December Lessar surveyed the north side of the Kopet Dag and reported that there would be no problem building a railway along it. From April 1882 he examined the country almost to Herat and reported that were no military obstacles between the Kopet Dag and Afghanistan. Nazirov or Nazir Beg went to Merv in disguise and then crossed the desert to Bukhara and Tashkent.


The irrigated area along the Kopet Dag ends east of Ashkebat. Farther east there is desert, then the small oasis of Tejent, more desert, and the much larger oasis of Merv. Merv had the great fortress of Kaushut Khan and was inhabited by Merv Tekes, who had also fought at Geok Tepe. As soon as the Russians were established in Askhabad, traders, and also spies, began moving between the Kopet Dag and Merv. Some elders from Merv went north to Petroalexandrovsk and offered a degree of submission to the Russians there. The Russians at Askhabad had to explain that both groups were part of the same empire. In February 1882 Alikhanov visited Merv and approached Makhdum Kuli Khan, who had been in command at Geok Tepe. In September Alikhanov persuaded Makhdum Kuli Khan to swear allegiance to the White Czar.


Skobelev had been replaced by Rohrberg in the spring of 1881, who was followed General Komarov in the spring of 1883. Near the end of 1883, General Komarov led 1500 men to occupy the Tejen oasis. After Komarov's occupation of Tejen, Alikhanov and Makhdum Kuli Khan went to Merv and called a meeting of elders, one threatening and the other persuading. Having no wish to repeat the slaughter at Geok Tepe, 28 elders went to Askhabad and on February 12 swore allegiance in the presence of General Komarov. A faction in Merv tried to resist but was too weak to accomplish anything. On March 16, 1884, Komarov occupied Merv. The subject Khanates of Khiva and Bukhara were now surrounded by Russian territory.


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